Gaza Conflict Claims Over 30,000 Lives, Majority Women and Children

The Gaza Strip is in the grip of a humanitarian disaster, as the war between Israel and Hamas has killed more than 30,000 people, mostly women and children, since it began in October.

The health ministry in the besieged enclave announced the grim milestone on Thursday, amid fears of more bloodshed in the southern city of Rafah, where Israel is expected to launch a fresh offensive.

The ministry said that around 70% of the casualties were civilians, and that more than 70,000 people had been injured. It also said that the Israeli bombing and ground campaigns had displaced the vast majority of Gaza’s 2.2 million population, and severely damaged the infrastructure, water, electricity, food and health systems.

Israel, however, has disputed the Palestinian figures, and claimed that it has killed about 10,000 Hamas fighters since it declared war on the militant group on October 7, after Hamas launched a surprise attack that killed more than 1,200 Israelis and kidnapped more than 250 others.

Israel has said that its main objectives are to return the hostages and to “destroy” Hamas, which it considers a terrorist organization. It has also accused Hamas of using civilians as human shields and of firing rockets from densely populated areas.

Israel has faced mounting pressure from the international community to halt the conflict, but has retained the support of the United States, its key ally and largest supplier of military aid. The US has proposed a “temporary ceasefire” at the United Nations earlier this month, but has vetoed calls for an immediate halt in the conflict.

President Joe Biden has expressed hope that a weeks-long cessation of fighting could start as soon as next week, saying that a deal was “close” but “not done yet”. However, officials from Israel, Hamas and Qatar have cautioned against Biden’s optimism, suggesting that differences remain as negotiators work to secure an agreement.

Meanwhile, Israeli war cabinet minister Benny Gantz has warned that Israeli forces will expand military operations in Rafah if hostages are not returned by Ramadan, which is expected to begin on March 10 or 11.

“The world must know, and Hamas leaders must know – if by Ramadan our hostages are not home – the fighting will continue to the Rafah area,” Gantz said at a gathering of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations in Jerusalem.

Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, is home to more than 1 million people, who are crammed in a sprawling tent city that has formed around the border with Egypt. The city has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting in the war, and has suffered heavy casualties and destruction.

The UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordination Office, OCHA, said on Tuesday that at least 576,000 people across Gaza are “facing catastrophic levels of deprivation and starvation” and are “one step away from famine”. Almost the entire population of 2.2 million people require food aid, according to the UN World Food Programme (WFP), which added one in six children under the age of two is acutely malnourished.

“Gaza is seeing the worst level of child malnutrition anywhere in the world,” Carl Skau, WFP Deputy Executive Director, told the UN Security Council on Tuesday.

The war has also sparked protests and solidarity movements around the world, with many people calling for an end to the violence and for justice for the Palestinians. The conflict has also raised concerns about the prospects of a lasting peace and a two-state solution in the Middle East.

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